Mom is incredulousMom is incredulous

Is it just me, or has the quality of the “Quick Tips” in Cook’s Illustrated gone downhill lately? I got my November/December issue yesterday and couldn’t believe that someone received a year’s subscription for recommending that you can easily clean your Microplane grater with a toothbrush – I keep a toothbrush by the kitchen sink for lots of clean-up jobs and have for years. Then there’s the woman who fixes her broken layer cakes with frosting. Maybe if she would line the pans with parchment paper she wouldn’t have so many broken cakes to begin with. Jeremy Turner of Brooklyn, NY writes in with a complicated method for removing the skins from almonds because he claimed that he couldn’t find blanched almonds at the grocery store. In Brooklyn? Really? Do you want to pour boiling water over almonds and then slip the skins off, nut by nut? That’s not even a quick tip!

Last month we had a lady who devised an “inexpensive way to neatly contain appliance cords”, by bundling them up inside empty cardboard toilet paper rolls – okay if you don’t mind toilet paper rolls all over your kitchen counters. Inexpensive but gross, I say. And we have the off-label uses for plastic wrap. This month someone is covering the base of her standing mixer with it to prevent food from getting into the cracks, and last month another obsessive-compulsive woman was wrapping a strainer with it to prevent any sifted flour from slopping onto the counter. We should hook those two up with Roman Lasek from Berkeley, California, who in my opinion sent in the most ridiculous “trick” I’ve read recently. He advises holding the tray from your toaster oven under the edge of the kitchen counter and sweeping spilled food onto it for “easy disposal”. That’s it. That’s the “trick”.


I had a good laugh over this. I guess there are only so many original and truly useful hints out there and when you’re trying to find enough to fill a magazine page every month the hints get a little crazy. Or a little lame.

It’s totally not you — the quick tips have been exceptionally lame for at least the last year. But even more irritating is the repetitiveness & predictability of the CI recipes. Did they always cater so uniformly to the meat-and-potatoes set? Do we really need them to investigate how to perfect a glazed roast chicken, or beef stroganoff, or to rescue sponge cake gone wrong – AGAIN? I want in-depth discussions about vegetables or herbs or staples —things other than very conventional chicken entrees. Am I alone?

Those are…pretty lame, really. Regarding the appliance cord-containing, do what they tell you to do in electronics stores: twist ties.

Also, I live in a town of 28,000 that until recently didn’t know what wasabi was, and I can find pre-packaged blanched whole almonds, slivered almonds, crushed almonds, SLICED almonds, and all of the above in bulk. So, Jeremy Turner of Brooklyn, New York, may I politely suggest that you GO TO THE STORE and TRY HARDER.

You are a freaking riot! Thank you for that, you made my evening!!!
Excuse me while I go extract the crumb tray from my toaster…

Oh, Mom, I think I love you! Thanks for that very funny column. I read my Cook’s every other month and look at those “quick tips” and wonder what the hell these people are thinking!? It probably takes longer to get the Saran Wrap out of the box and laid over the Kitchen Aid then it does to wipe the couple of small splatters!

Wow. I’m not a subscriber; I only pick up an occasional issue when the mood grabs me, and it’s been a little while. If that’s the quality of the tips these days, then I’d say, yeah, things have gone down hill.

But I certainly enjoyed your skewering of them. So there’s a sunny side, I guess….

I thought the same thing when I read those “tips”. How much extra work are people willing to do to avoid the work of cleaning/shopping elsewhere?

Although I’m still a regular reader (of your blog, not Cooks) I haven’t “visited” the site in a while. So this comment is probably redundant. But I love your new title – totally legible, creative, and an effect I’ve never seen in quite this way.

As for the Cooks tips, they were hilarious. But so was your write up. And this from someone who is so fascinated by the weird things people do in their kitchens that she’s spent long afternoons reading books of “Hints from Heloise.”

I’ve always had a website subscription to CI, precisely because their recipes and tips get old after a while. In addition, their “ethnic” recipes are truly dreadful, employing time saving tricks and ingredient substitutions that they would never deem acceptable for American and European food.

But for simple, American and European cuisine, they really do have the best recipes. Who else can explain how to make the perfect lemon meringue pie or chocolate cake, not to mention how to perfectly cook every cut of meat imaginable? Just don’t go looking for their Chicken Biryani recipe, which isn’t even identified by its proper name.

Apparently people like Roman Lasek are smarter than you think since they are enjoying a free one year subscription to the magazine!

Thanks for your thoughts on my Quick Tip. Being “most ridiculous” gives me a good laugh. I submitted it in an effort to get a free CI subscription. I figured this idea (getting spilled cumin seeds or spices into a spice jar via tray) was so insipid there is no way they have printed it already. They edited my idea and sent me a Cook’s Country subscription instead!

You have to wonder about all the tips that are rejected when you read the ones that make the cut; maybe “Tips” should be reduced to a yearly or occasional feature so they wouldn’t have to fill the space up with nonsense. But nothing personal, Roman – I’m sure if I scrutinized the last six issues or so I’d come up with lots of tips that were sillier than yours! But wouldn’t one of the new flexible cutting mats work better than your toaster tray for scooping up seeds and spices and returning them to their containers? And congratulations on your free subscription!

And for those complaining about the quality of CI in general, I think Leland wrote a while back bewailing their emphasis on quick and easy meals and the dearth of material for folks who really like to cook. They’re probably responding to demand, though. Every issue now seems to have one or two articles on how to do something quickly or remaking a classic in an easy way. They are still the first place I turn for the basics, but sometimes I have to look elsewhere.

Add a comment